And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.
Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
“The blood of martyrs is the seed of faith.” These words were first written by Tertullian, a Christian convert, in the late second century when severe persecution persisted throughout the Roman world. I tend to think religious persecution is a thing of the long distant past, not part of our current experience.
Upon further reflection, I recall many news stories during the past year about persecution driven by religious belief in the Middle East, Africa, India and so many other areas of the world. I have to work hard to convince myself these terrible situations are important to me. They involve real people like you and me who are children of God just like you and me.
I don’t have answers, but I do have questions. How might I accompany and even help people halfway around the world who suffer persecution today? When have I clothed the naked, fed the hungry, given shelter to strangers and visited the prisoner? Might I be more attentive to how people close to me are being persecuted.
—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.
Lord, we pray for those suffering the agony of persecution at this very moment. We pray for their families, whose hearts are pierced by the cruelty inflicted on their loved ones. Let our prayers unite to bring comfort, courage, and hope to our brothers and sisters. Amen.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team